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A photo essay is a series of photographs that tell a story about a person, place, event, or trend. In this course, photojournalist Paul Taggart takes us on assignment as he photographs Kevin Carman, an artist in Ventura, California.
Paul, whose work has appeared in publications such the New York Times and National Geographic, shares insights into how he prepares for an assignment, how he engages his subject, and how he takes advantage of unpredictable and unforeseen situations. The course concludes with a look at how the final essay might be sequenced and distributed.
After a long day of shooting, I usually come back to my hotel room or wherever it is that I'm staying. And I've got piles of cards on which I need to download or ingest into my computer and then sort through them. with the Kevin story we had roughly 2000 or so images but I needed to get down to 100. So what I do is usually tired after a long day of shooting instead of editing everything, and opening it up in Photoshop. I'll get it down to that Magic 100 and then get a good night's sleep. Wake up the next morning, and have at it again. So what I've got now is 100 images that I need to get down to about 20 or 30.
So I can get an idea of what kind of images I need to make for the rest of the day. And see what kind of holes need to be filled. So now that I've got 100 images or actually resized, I've got 96 images that I have a 1 star rating for. The way I like to do it is I like to give one star for my preliminary edit. And then I'll do two stars for my secondary edit and then I kind of go from there depending on how many more days of shooting I have. for our one stars we've got 96 images. And where I go from this is I kind of actually make my thumbnails nice and tiny.
And this might seem a little weird, but what I do is I kind of sit back like this and I squint my eyes a little bit. And what you start to see is you start seeing collections of images. And I stop looking at what the content of the image is, because I know what the content is. What I really want to do is look at the colors, and the shapes, and just sort of see what's going on. And when I do that, I can automatically see that right here, I've got five images that only one of those is ever going to work in a sequence together. Down here, I've got four images that have roughly the same blue. These are all these darker images.
so automatically, I can start this tell that alright, I only have about 20 images here. And so from here what I'll do is I'll go through and I'll open them open and I'm going to do two star ratings for the images that I'm going to keep. And we're looking for not only for sequence and content but also styles or images that'll go together. Hopefully when I'm finished here we'll have about twenty to thirty images to work with. When looking at images like this, close up of Kevin, I'm looking usually, with a portrait of something. You're looking at their eyes and determining what kind of intensity they have or what kind of emotion you really want in that picture. And for instance here, I've got three images that are roughly the same. And what I was doing is, Kevin's working on this cone shaped object here for one of his sculptures.
And I was trying to frame out of focus the same objects in the foreground. you might need a little cropping to make that work but still keep it just to see later. Mixing up our image always, you know how they detail shots of hands but then also having a wider version to cut to. yesterday we spent quite awhile photographing Kevin and some of his friends playing this, this type of bocce ball that they play. and it was fascinating to watch them play and they had a great time. and it was fun to shoot, but for a story it's almost more of a distraction than it is a benefit to tell his character.
I might pick one or two of these images just to see how he interacts with other people. Because as a character, we're going to need a little bit more just looking at the exact same face over an entire essay. But I don't want to try to define the game too much with the images. So looking at these, maybe an image like this where we've got three people in the frame, just makes it visually more interesting. This image here is a great one for either the beginning of our photo essay or for the end of the photo essay. it establishes where we are, Art City Studios.
and I love the fact that it's just sitting on the side. It's not too blatant like just the sign you know with the, the perfect hor, horizon on it. I actually shot this in two separate ways. So we gotta put it at the beginning of our photo essay, or at the end of our photo essay. I don't have the other image starred right now. But depending on which angle you're looking at Art City, it feels like a bookend to go on either end. So we'll start that one for sure with two. This image I love. And we did, the portrait from a nice high vantage point. But yesterday while shooting this, it wasn't shot at the exact light that I wanted, and I was a little worried at the dynamic range of our image would not come through.
I thought I'd loose all of this in the shadows. And I actually played with this is Photoshop for a little bit, which I like to do if there's an image that I'm in question about. I will open up a Photoshop the night before so I know if I have to shoot it the next day. And I've determined that we, in fact, do not need to reshoot this. Photoshop saved us and shooting in raw image file also saved us. And I got just enough detail out of here that I'm pretty happy with this portrait, and I'll keep it. Here's the art city sign from the other angle. And so, this one seems more like a, a beginning to the story. 'Cuz we're walking into the story, rather than looking from the behind.
So we'll put two stars on that, so we can make that decision later on, when we're, sequencing our images. One thing that we need for sure in this photo essay is a little bit more action. This is a shot that, you see the dust flying while he's carving away at the face of the sculpture and that's great, it shows motion and it shows action. But here, if I look back at our larger edit and look at these thumbnails It seems pretty static. It's a lot of faces, it's a lot of inanimate object, there's not a lot of movement.
So, already I know, for sure, today I'm going to need to go out and take pictures that have more motion in them. I know we're going to be shooting Kevin on his bicycle today, the way in which we're going to shoot that is going to incorporate motion into that image. And it's something we definitely need to make this photo essay work and give it some life. A big story on that came out in yesterday's shooting that I'm looking at now, is Kevin's daughter. He's got an angel sculpture that he's working on right now and he's trying to finish within two weeks before he goes back to Florida to see his daughter. And the face is based off of a portrait of his daughter. I love adding this element to our story, and it's something that I want to incorporate more today.
then we'll talk about that a little later on but, it's definitely like an emotional arc in our story that's necessary. A location change as in these images, where now we're inside his home are really great. because up until this point all our images have been in his outdoor studio and I'm already getting a little bored of looking at it. So just a location change is a huge deal for us. And is definitely pushing our narrative forward. Again, this our, pictures of Kevin's daughter on his night stand. And I think those are going to make a great connection to the angel statue.
And we're going to create a little story with about three images within our photo essay. Yesterday we took some time to get some detail shots around his house. and these images, actually after seeing Kevin's face over and over and over again, as much as we love him, we don't want to see him in every picture. And these kind of give our, our viewers a breathing moment when looking at our photos. So I'm going to select a couple of these detail shots that don't have Kevin in them. So, there we go. So I've got 22 images that I've selected with two stars, and let's see where all our holes are.
One thing that I'm noticing is the majority of the pictures that I've selected have all been shot with the wide angle lens somewhere between 17 and 35 millimeters. I was shooting on a wide. It's a problem I have is I shoot too much stuff on wide. But visually it becomes a little too stagnant and I know today when I'm shooting I gotta bring out the bigger lens and shoot with a 7200 that we've got here. And I need to flatten my plane a little bit because right now visually it's all looking too similar. So for today I've got at least three shoots set up and I need to shoot with a longer lens. I don't think we need to do any reshoot of things we shot yesterday. But looking at this I've got a game plan of what I need. And I need more motion.
I need longer lens shots and I need about three different location changes in order to make this more interesting.
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